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Destinations

Istanbul and Gallipoli: visit Turkey's best

Any trip to Turkey should include a long weekend in dazzling Istanbul. And, with Anzac Day approaching, Susan Duncan, gives her top tips on making a visit to Gallipoli a success.

Istanbul: tale of two cities
More than any other city, Istanbul is an intoxicating blend of East and West. Straddling two continents, its ancient centre lies in Europe, while its eastern suburbs are in Asia. It's a place with so much history that visitors can take in 2000 years on a stroll around the metropolis.
Here, Roman ruins, Byzantine churches, medieval towers, mosques and the world's grandest bazaar lie in a magnificent clutter close to the Hippodrome, where great chariot races once clattered around this paved arena.
Byzantium, as it was called in its first incarnation, rose shortly after the Roman Emperor Constantine made it his new capital as the power of ancient Rome crumbled in the west. It ruled supreme for a millennium before being sacked by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II in 1453.
Mehmet converted the world's grandest and most venerated church, Hagia Sophia, into a mosque. Today, it is a museum and, besides the Pantheon in Rome, is one of the most spectacular ancient buildings left still in use in the world. Istanbul is a destination that demands more than a short stop-over; a weekend is barely adequate, four to five days is better.
With its spectacular ancient buildings, vibrant food and fashion scene, extraordinary Grand Bazaar and lodgings that meet all budgets, Istanbul will dazzle the most jaded traveller. Here are some tips on what to see and do:
+ Walk around the Sultanahmet, the ancient centre where you must visit Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Mehmet Pasa Mosque, Topkapi Palace (the sultans' lodgings and gardens, and where you can see the fabulous crown jewels of the Ottoman sultans), the Archaeology Museum, Suleymaniye Mosque, the Grand Bazaar (a vast labyrinth of shops and stalls), the Hippodrome and the ancient underground reservoir known as the Basilica Cistern.
+ Take a boat tour along the shores of the Bosphorous, past Ottoman palaces and medieval crusader castles to the Black Sea.
+ Stay at one of the inexpensive hotels on the slopes behind Sultanahmet, overlooking the Sea of Marmara.
+ Join the locals for a chic dinner overlooking the Golden Horn at Lucca, Cevdet Pass Cad 51/B, Bebek (tel: + 90 212 257 1255) or have an inexpensive mezze plate
and Turkish coffee at a traditional cafe.
+ Visit one of the many hammams (Turkish baths) and have the massage of a lifetime after soaking on the marble slabs of the steam room.
Tips on visiting Gallipoli
+ Gallipoli is a strenuous destination. Unless you are moderately fit or can make special arrangements, it may be too difficult. There are long walks to the Anzac Day service at Anzac Cove and the later service at Lone Pine. Many hours are spent in the cold and leaving the site can involve up to an eight-hour wait before your bus can pick you up.
+ Facilities are limited. There is no food or drink available until you reach Lone Pine, where you can buy tea and deliciously fresh göaut;zleme (hot sandwiches) from stalls. Toilet facilities barely cope with the crowds and queues can stretch for half a kilometre. Wandering off into the scrub can be dangerous — there are trenches everywhere.
+ It is best to book accommodation as close to Gallipoli as possible to avoid long, tiring journeys on top of a very long night and day. Canakkale, on the Asian side of the Dardanelles, has a wide range of places to stay, but fills up quickly. The choice is limited at Eceabat.
+ Most people join tour groups, either booked in Australia or Istanbul. It is possible to set off solo, but that's generally discouraged by both Turkish and Australian authorities.
+ Above all, take a ground sheet, warm clothing (even a blanket if you can carry it), a torch and, if possible, a thermos of hot soup. If you like, leave behind what you won't need for the rest of your trip. The locals are glad of the offerings.
After Gallipoli
Visit the famous ruins at Troy where excavations have revealed nine ancient cities, built one on top of the other. Perhaps spend a night or two at Assos, an exquisitely beautiful little coastal village with waterfront restaurants and blazing fires for cold evenings. Meander on to Bergama to see the ancient ruins of Pergamum and, if you can, move on to Selcuk to see the magnificent ancient site of Ephesus, the first and greatest city of Asia Minor.
Travel essentialsFly Singapore Airlines (tel: 13 10 11; www.singaporeair.com.au) has multiple flights daily to Singapore from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, or daily from Adelaide, with five weekly convenient and direct connections to Istanbul.
TourInsight Vacations (www.insightvacations.com.au) has a 15-day Treasures of Turkey Anzac Day tour, departure from Istanbul April 13 (from $2060 per person, twin share, land only), that pays a special visit to Anzac Cove for the Anzac Day ceremonies. Insight also provides a 15-day Treasures of Turkey tour without the Anzac component (from $1899 per person, twin share). Both tours visit Istanbul, Bursa, Ankara, Cappadocia, Konya, Antalya, Pamukkale, Kusadasi, Izmir and Canakkale, Göaut;reme, Aspendos, Perge, Ephesus, Troy and Pergamon.

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